Preparing for extreme cold

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Extremely cold temperatures can threaten Ohio during the winter. During Winter Safety Awareness Week the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness is encouraging people to take this week to prepare for the worst.

Dan Suffoletto works for Dayton and Montgomery County Public Health. He knows some of the dangers winter can bring.

“Now is the time people want to start thinking about being ready for the cold of winter. Of course, we already had some snow so we know that it can come at any time,” Suffoletto said.

Last year the wind chill dropped 36 degrees below zero.

“One of the things that’s a danger for people in the winter is frostbite,” Suffoletto said.

In those conditions, frostbite can happen in just 10 minutes.

“Certainly anytime you get below freezing you want to make sure that skin is protected,” Suffoletto said.

The national weather service suggests having three layers when it comes to Extreme Cold. A base layer, an insulating layer, and finally an outer layer to keep out the wind.

“It’s the open skin that’s where you can get frostbite,” Suffoletto said.

According to the National Weather Service frostbite is a survival mechanism. The body will cut off blood flow to the extremities. Hands, feet, nose or ears tend to freeze first.

“The extremities can get cold first because their farther away from your heart and the blood not flowing as easily to those locations,” Suffoletto said. “You want to make sure you cover yourself and have good protection whenever you’re out in the cold.

The record windchill in Dayton is -53 degrees.

If the wind chill is 50 degrees below zero, the only sure way to avoid frostbite is to stay inside. If that is not an option the National Weather Service suggests covering every part of your body. The goal is to keep the skin dry and avoid being in the wind. Staying hydrated will also increase blood volume and help prevent frostbite.

“Of course what you want to do to protect yourself, you want to make sure you’re wearing a hat. wearing gloves, cover your skin on your face as much as possible and limit your time outdoors when it’s very cold,” Suffoletto said.

Suffoletto said the flu is a more common problem.

“In the wintertime, people tend to be closer together, in groups, inside, and that means the flu can spread a little bit easier,” Suffoletto said.

He suggests getting a flu shot.

“We have that available here at Public Health,” Suffoletto said. “The flu is not caused by cold temperatures. The flu is a virus, but you still want to get that vaccination right now to protect yourself throughout the whole season.”

Suffoletto said they also see problems rise as the snow does.

“When it starts to snow people get out there and shovel and shoveling can be dangerous, especially if you are not in good health,” Suffoletto said. “Make sure to take your time when your shoveling. If the snow is too heavy and wet, be very very careful when you are doing that.”

He suggests taking breaks, and checking on neighbors.

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